From Workers’ International News, Vol.2 No.12, December 1939, pp.7-10.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
In our last issue we published a statement from a member of the Communist Party which typified the reactions of a section of the membership and supporters of this party to the latest turns. We do not pretend that this reaction is common to the majority of the militants who remain in its ranks. Unfortunately this is not the case. There still remains a section which, out of a blind loyalty, is prepared to accept anything which is put before them by the leadership.
These people resemble those who attend a music hall regardless of its programme, retaining faith in the management to produce a star turn which will please them. They accept the preceding turns complacently whether good or bad, applauding those which are to their liking and tolerating those which are not. But always awaiting their reward in the shape of the supreme act.
So it is with the loyal members of the Communist Party. When on August 23rd, the Daily Worker called for their financial support because “in the present situation, the first duty of all who are genuinely concerned for the defence of their country is, clearly to give the utmost assistance ...” so that they could get the issues clear in order that “our people actively and keenly defend their homeland ...” They did so and prepared to pay the supreme price. On September 30th, again in answer to the same call, they prepared, however, to give this matter their “serious consideration” and on November 4th, at the request of the long silent Dimitrov, to relinquish the historic role of “defending their homeland”; the task so recently assigned to them by the party leadership. Thus did the “Peace Front” act retire from the scene and the “fight against imperialist war” take the stage.
Despite the undoubtedly more popular policy of “opposition” to war, the sudden change was, to say the least, disturbing and even the most backward members required an explanation of this amazing contortion. But more important, Dimitrov’s statement that
“... the proletariat, the working people have nothing to defend in this war ... Were they to support such a war, they would merely defend the interests of their enslavers and oppressors, would be supporting capitalist slavery” (DW, November 4th)
signified that the paymaster of the Comintern in Moscow too demanded an explanation, not of why they changed the line, but why the luckless leaders did not change it sooner in accord with their interests. And so the leadership of the British section, having committed itself up to the hilt in support of “capitalist slavery” had to declare that it had made a “mistake” and produce scapegoats in the form of Harry Pollitt, the party secretary and J.R. Campbell, in the same way that Stalin a few weeks previously dispensed with the services of the Foreign Minister Litvinov.
The. leadership of the Communist Party has received a nasty jolt over this affair and has learned a lesson. Palme Dutt, Pollitt’s successor reveals this by his extreme caution at the present time.
The reason for this must be clearly understood and it is to be found in the fact that the policy of the Communist Party is not in the hands of the Palme Dutts and the Pollitts. It is not determined either by the national interests of any section of the proletariat nor by the international interests of the workers and peasants as a whole, but it is directed from Moscow and is motivated the nationalist self interests of the ruling bureaucratic clique headed by Stalin. In order to drive a better bargain with his fellow executioner of the German Communists, Stalin uses the “democratic alliance” deception and having achieved this objective, cynically abandoned this manoeuvre together with his mercenary lackeys who had advocated it and the dupes who had supported it. But in each instance he has given an indication of intentions, indications which have been more readily understood by the bourgeoisie than his own spokesmen.
Before the deal with Hitler was clinched, Litvinov was removed from his position. The pact which was construed by the King Street curates as “a victory for peace and socialism” was an obvious signal to the Communist Parties of Britain and France to change their attitude towards the bourgeoisie whom they were supporting. The Soviet Union’s participation in the Polish adventure, was an even more obvious sign that they should revise their whole attitude. But under the guidance of Pollitt and Campbell they consistently misunderstood every signal. That is the extent of the “mistake” which they so humbly confess to having made.
Where does this organisation stand teary? And what is its future perspective? At the present time they are vociferously opposing the war but in a pacifist manner, by appealing to the ruling class to call a conference and “negotiate a peace.” They are playing a careful role. Palme Dutt is proving more astute than the unhappy Pollitt. He is reluctant to adopt a decisive position at the present period, from which it will be difficult to withdraw should the occasion arise. And not without good reason. With the peculiar course which is at present being pursued by the belligerents and neutrals alike it is extremely difficult to predict. with any assurance, the outcome of the subterranean manoeuvrings and intrigues on the diplomatic field, and most of all, the future role of Stalin.
Britain and France have clearly indicated to the German bourgeoisie that if the section of the Nazi and military leadership which favours an abandonment of the present campaign and a turn to the East is given control, their support will be forthcoming. In an attempt to enforce this development they endeavour to apply pressure by negotiating with Germany’s erstwhile allies, Mussolini and Franco. Stalin, having threatened the Western powers by the conclusion of the Trade Agreement and the Amity and Frontier Treaty with Nazi Germany, nevertheless indicates that the door is not yet closed against the “Democracies.” The parading of Litvinov in person and Thaelmann pictorially at the anniversary celebrations of the October Revolution is an indication of this. The Communist Party leaders have heeded this warning and as consequence, are stalling and playing for time by joining in the chorus of the ILP, the PPU and the Mosley fascists for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
At the present time, they dare not go further, but they cannot remain suspended in mid-air indefinitely. They will be forced to adopt a positive attitude towards the war makers. For the present they continue to fly their kites. With regard to the Labour Party, the leadership of the Communist Party applies for affiliation, whilst the Daily Worker (November 23rd) points out that it “is in no sense a demand for a united front with the upper leadership of the Labour Party but a lever of struggle against the upper leadership and policy ...” In the same statement they declare:
“The Communist Party takes up the fight in the electoral field against, the coalition of the official leaderships of the Conservative, Liberal and Labour Parties who support the war.”
From this it can be deduced that the policy of collaboration with the rank and file and the recalcitrant leaders of the CONSERVATIVE and LIBERAL parties has not been abandoned but is still being held, in reserve. This position finds its basis in Dimitrov’s statement:
“Millions of working people in the capitalist world, and above all, in the warring countries, are vitally interested in bringing about militant working class unity, and establishing a real popular front against war ...”
Consistent only in his inconsistency, the Secretary of the Communist International stresses in the same declaration the necessity for a “united front from BELOW”, the ultra-left policy pursued by the Communist Party in Germany with such disastrous results.
The nebulous declarations of opposition to the war continue to be traded before the masses. Pollitt and Campbell, who voted on the Central Committee against the change of line, publish statements in the Daily Worker on November 3rd, declaring that they were “misled” by their “hatred of fascism” into supporting the war but they now accept the revised policy of the Party, so revealing that their “hatred of fascism” was not sufficiently intense to cause them to break with Stalin when he embraced Hitler! These statements, however, mean nothing. They are merely for the benefit of the party members who are querying the position of these people. If necessary the policy of Pollitt and Campbell will be brought out of cold storage and Palme Dutt will don the dunce’s cap in their stead. This course would be necessitated in the event of a turn of the “democratic” imperialists to the Soviet Union. They are, however, at the moment reluctant to adopt this course as is evidenced by the limited political control of the advocates of this policy – Churchill, Eden and Duff-Cooper.
If, on the other hand, the Western, powers are successful in turning the German war machine on the USSR, then the Comintern will turn accordingly to a position which they will demagogically identify with revolutionary defeatism, but which will in fact have nothing in common with Lenin’s policy. The third variant is that of the present status quo. German imperialism plus any allies it can acquire against British imperialism and its allies, with Moscow desiring neither victory nor defeat for either side. Under these circumstances the present position of the Stalintern will be maintained. They will continue to demand that workers actions be limited to influencing their ruling class to cease hostilities and call conference with Stalin as a participant in the “negotiations”, thus abandoning the toiling masses to their imperialist slave-masters.
Whatever course events may take, the treacherous policy of the mercenary flunkeys of the Kremlin bureaucracy will remain a barrier on the road of proletarian and colonial struggle for emancipation from the strangling fetters of the decayed capitalist system.
Last updated on 17.11.2005